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Embracing a Non-Linear Path

Ritika Ramesh shared her experiences and knowledge with undergraduate students as part of EDI's design coaching program.

Career paths do not need to be linear. Ritika Ramesh (EDI '24) has learned that firsthand.

Thanks to Northwestern's Master of Science in Engineering Design Innovation (EDI) program, she shares that realization with undergraduate students across the University.

Ritika RameshRamesh is a design coach, a paid position that allows her to serve as an advisor for undergraduates taking courses within the Segal Design Institute. She's held that role for multiple courses during her time in EDI, but the most meaningful has been her work with Designing Your Life.

The class encourages students to approach their lives like a series of design projects. with the same mindset they learn to take with design projects. The goal is to help students explore the depths of their career desires so they can steer themselves toward a field and job they love.

“I love working with the students to understand where they see themselves going,” she said. “I want to open them up to alternative paths and to encourage them to explore their own lives and push them to be more open to imagine outside-the-box opportunities.”

Designing Your Life includes discussions, role-playing, writing assignments, guest speakers, and individual mentoring. That last area is where Ramesh adds value as a design coach. Design coaches attend every class session for the courses they serve and also hold office hours to advise students on their project work.

"A lot of the students are still exploring where they might want to be in the design field,” Ramesh said. “I wanted to be able to give people somebody to talk to and also share my own experience with them.”

That experience includes living all over the world. Growing up, Ramesh and her family moved throughout South Asia and Oceania, living in Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, and India.

Ramesh eventually pursued a career in fashion design before attending EDI.

While she enjoyed sharing her background with students, she got more satisfaction learning from them and their experiences. She also enjoyed connecting with professor Bruce Ankenman, who helped develop the Designing Your Life course in 2016.

“The grad-school experience is, in general, about building connections,” she said. “If you don't network, you don’t grow as a person. It's very important to spend your time in grad school making the most out of who you have around you, and this was a nice opportunity to do that.”

Because of that exchange, the opportunity was a win-win for both Ramesh and the students, she said. The most important lesson she tried to share with the students she coached is that it’s OK to not know exactly what they plan to do in the future.

“You get a lot of people coming in speaking about their experiences and talking about their curvy career paths,” she said. “It can be very eye-opening to see that you don’t have to have it all figured out.”
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